What the Army Knew in 1943

January 21, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

I remember hearing a general on radio not long before the US invasion of Iraq. After the fall of Saddam, he said, “it’s not like everyone’s going to rush to the palace, join hands, and sing Kumbaya.”

Maybe he’d read this book, recently reissued by University of Chicago Press.

The pamphlet was handed out to GIs in World War II who were posted to Iraq. It’s very brief and written so that the typical dogface could understand it. The brilliant minds that gave us the rosy scenarios – chicken hawks like Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby, et. al. – must have left it off their reading list. Too much cultural relativism, I guess.

Here are some excerpts:
There are also political differences in Iraq that have puzzled diplomats and statesmen. You won’t help matters by getting mixed up in them.

Differences? Sure there are differences. Differences of costume. Differences of food. . . . Different attitudes toward women. Differences galore.
But what of it? You weren’t going to Iraq to change the Iraqis. Just the opposite. We are fighting the war to preserve the principle of “live and let live.”
Lt. Col. John Nagl wrote an introduction for the current edition and refers to the “stunning understatement” in this sentence.
The Iraqis have some religious and tribal differences among themselves.
Nagl is a Rhodes Scholar with an Oxford Ph.D., an expert on counterinsurgency who served in Iraq in 2003-2004 and co-wrote the current manual for US COIN forces. If there’s any hope for anything resembling success in Iraq, it lies with people like Nagl. He just announced his retirement from the military.

1 comment:

jeremy said...

I've the version of this book for Australia.